The Mormonism Of To-day

An intelligent examination of the present status of the Mormon

church can be made only after acquaintance with its past

history, and the policy of the men who have given it its present

doctrinal and political position. The Mormon power has ever in

view objects rather than methods. It always keeps those objects

in view, while at times adjusting methods to circumstances, as

was the case in its latest treatment of the doctrine of

polygamy. The casual visitor, making a tour of observation in

Utah, and the would-be student of Mormon policies who satisfies

himself with reading their books of doctrine instead of their

early history, is certain to acquire little knowledge of the

real Mormon character and the practical Mormon ambition, and if

he writes on the subject he will contribute nothing more

authentic than does Schouler in his "History of the United

States" wherein he calls Joseph Smith "a careful organizer," and

says that "it was a part of his creed to manage well the

material concerns of his people, as they fed their flocks and

raised their produce." Brigham Young's constant cry was that all

the Mormons asked was to be left alone. Nothing suits the

purposes of the heads of the church today better than the

decrease of public attention attracted to their organization

since the Woodruff manifesto concerning polygamy. In trying to

arrive at a reasonable decision concerning their future place in

American history, one must constantly bear in mind the arguments

which they have to offer to religious enthusiasts, and the

political and commercial power which they have already attained

and which they are constantly strengthening.

The growth of Utah in population since its settlement by the

Mormons has been as follows, accepting the figures of the United

States census:--

1850 11,380

1860 40,273

1870 86,786

1880 143,963

1890 207,905

1900 276,749

The census of 1890 (the religious statistics of the census of

1900 are not yet available) shows that, of a total church

membership of 128,115 in Utah, the Latter-Day Saints numbered


What may be called the Mormon political policy embraces these

objects: to maintain the dictatorial power of the priesthood

over the present church membership; to extend that membership

over the adjoining states so as to acquire in the latter, first

a balance of power, and later complete political control; to

continue the work of proselyting throughout the United States and

in foreign lands with a view to increasing the strength of the

church at home by the immigration to Utah of the converts.

That the power of the Mormon priesthood over their flock has

never been more autocratic than it is to-day is the testimony of

the best witnesses who may be cited. A natural reason for this

may be found in the strength which always comes to a religious

sect with age, if it survives the period of its infancy. We have

seen that in the early days of the church its members apostatized

in scores, intimate acquaintance with Smith and his associates

soon disclosing to men of intelligence and property their real

objects. But the church membership in and around Utah to-day is

made up of the children and the grandchildren of men and women

who remained steadfast in their faith. These younger generations

are therefore influenced in their belief, not only by such

appeals as what is taught to them makes to their reason, but by

the fact that these teachings are the teachings which have been

accepted by their ancestors. It is, therefore, vastly more

difficult to convince a younger Mormon to-day that his belief

rests on a system of fraud than it was to enforce a similar

argument on the minds of men and women who joined the Saints in

Ohio or Illinois. We find, accordingly, that apostasies in Utah

are of comparatively rare occurrence; that men of all classes

accept orders to go on missions to all parts of the world without

question; and that the tithings are paid with greater regularity

than they have been since the days of Brigham Young.

The extension of the membership of the Mormon church over the

states and territories nearest to Utah has been carried on with

intelligent zeal. The census of 1890 gives the following

comparison of members of Latter-Day Saints churches and of "all

bodies" in the states and territories named:--

******* L.D. SAINTS **** ALL BODIES ***

Idaho******* 14,972 **** 24,036

Arizona***** 6,500 **** 26,972

Nevada****** 525 **** 5,877

Wyoming***** 1,336 **** 11,705

Colorado**** 1,762 **** 86,837

New Mexico** 456 **** 105,749

The political influence of the Mormon church in all the states

and territories adjacent to Utah is already great, amounting in

some instances to practical dictation. It is not necessary that

any body of voters should have the actual control of the

politics of a state to insure to them the respect of political

managers. The control of certain counties will insure to them the

subserviency of the local politicians, who will speak a good

word for them at the state capital, and the prospect that they

will have greater influence in the future will be pressed upon

the attention of the powers that be. We have seen how steadily

the politicians of California at Washington stood by the Mormons

in their earlier days, when they were seeking statehood and

opposing any federal control of their affairs. The business

reasons which influenced the Californians are a thousand times

more effective to-day. The Cooperative Institution has a hold on

the Eastern firms from which it buys goods, and every commercial

traveller who visits Utah to sell the goods of his employers to

Mormon merchants learns that a good word for his customers is

always appreciated. The large corporations that are organized

under the laws of Utah (and this includes the Union Pacific

Railroad Company) are always in some way beholden to the Mormon

legislative power. All this sufficiently indicates the measures

quietly taken by the Mormon church to guard itself against any

further federal interference.

The mission work of the Mormon church has always been conducted

with zeal and efficiency, and it is so continued to-day. The

church authorities in Utah no longer give out definite

statistics showing the number of missionaries in the field, and

the number of converts brought to Utah from abroad. The number of

missionaries at work in October, 1901, was stated to me by church

officers at from fourteen hundred to nineteen hundred, the

smaller number being insisted upon as correct by those who gave

it. As nearly as could be ascertained, about one-half this force

is employed in the United States and the rest abroad. The home

field most industriously cultivated has been the rural districts

of the Southern states, whose ignorant population, ever

susceptible to "preaching" of any kind, and quite incapable of

answering the Mormon interpretation of the Scriptures, is most

easily lead to accept the Mormon views. When such people are

offered an opportunity to improve their worldly condition, as

they are told they may do in Utah, at the same time that they

can save their souls, the bait is a tempting one. The number of

missionaries now at work in these Southern states is said to be

much smaller than it was two years ago. Meanwhile the work of

proselyting in the Eastern Atlantic states has become more

active. The Mormons have their headquarters in Brooklyn, New

York, and their missionaries make visits in all parts of Greater

New York. They leave a great many tracts in private houses,

explaining that they will make another call later, and doing so

if they receive the least encouragement. They take great pains to

reach servant girls with their literature and arguments, and the

story has been published* of a Mormon missionary who secured

employment as a butler, and made himself so efficient that his

employer confided to him the engagement of all the house

servants; in time the frequent changes which he made aroused

suspicion, and an investigation disclosed the fact that he was a

Mormon of good education, who used his position as head servant

to perform effective proselyting work. By promise of a husband

and a home of her own on her arrival in Utah, this man was said

to have induced sixty girls to migrate from New York City to that

state since he began his labors.

* New York Sun, January 27, 1901.

The Mormons estimate the membership of their church throughout

the world at a little over 300,000. The numbers of "souls" in

the church abroad was thus reported for the year ending December

31, 1899, as published in the Millennial Star:--

Great Britain 4,588

Scandinavia 5,438

Germany 1,198

Switzerland 1,078

Netherlands 1,556

These figures indicate a great falling off in the church

constituency in Europe as compared with the year 1851, when the

number of Mormons in Great Britain and Ireland was reported at

more than thirty thousand. Many influences have contributed to

decrease the membership of the church abroad and the number of

converts which the church machinery has been able to bring to

Utah. We have seen that the announcement of polygamy as a

necessary belief of the church was a blow to the organization in

Europe. The misrepresentation made to converts abroad to induce

them to migrate to Utah, as illustrated in the earlier years of

the church, has always been continued, and naturally many of the

deceived immigrants have sent home accounts of their deception.

A book could be filled with stories of the experiences of men

and women who have gone to Utah, accepting the promises held out

to them by the missionaries,--such as productive farms, paying

business enterprises; or remunerative employment,--only to find

their expectations disappointed, and themselves stranded in a

country where they must perform the hardest labor in order to

support themselves, if they had not the means with which to

return home. The effect of such revelations has made some parts

of Europe an unpleasant field for the visits of Mormon


The government at Washington, during the operation of the

Perpetual Emigration Fund organization, realized the evil of the

introduction of so many Mormon converts from abroad. On August

9, 1879, Secretary of State William M. Evarts sent out a

circular to the diplomatic officers of the United States

throughout the world, calling their attention to the fact that

the organized shipment of immigrants intended to add to the

number of law-defying polygamists in Utah was "a deliberate and

systematic attempt to bring persons to the United States with

the intent of violating their laws and committing crimes

expressly punishable under the statute as penitentiary

offences," and instructing them to call the attention of the

governments to which they were accredited to this matter, in

order that those governments might take such steps as were

compatible with their laws and usages "to check the organization

of these criminal enterprises by agents who are thus operating

beyond the reach of the law of the United States, and to prevent

the departure of those proposing to come hither as violators of

the law by engaging in such criminal enterprises, by whomsoever

instigated." President Cleveland, in his first message,

recommended the passage of a law to prevent the importation of

Mormons into the United States. The Edmunds-Tucker law contained

a provision dissolving the Perpetual Emigration Company, and

forbidding the Utah legislature to pass any law to bring persons

into the territory. Mormon authorities have informed me that

there has been no systematic immigration work since the

prosecutions under the Edmunds law. But as it is conceded that

the Mormons make practically no proselytes among then Gentile

neighbors, they must still look largely to other fields for that

increase of their number which they have in view.

As a part of their system of colonizing the neighboring states

and territories, they have made settlements in the Dominion of

Canada and in Mexico. Their Canadian settlement is situated in

Alberta. A report to the Superintendent of Immigration at

Ottawa, dated December 30, 1899, stated that the Mormon colony

there comprised 1700 souls, all coming from Utah; and that "they

are a very progressive people, with good schools and churches."

When they first made their settlement they gave a pledge to the

Dominion government that they would refrain from the practice of

polygamy while in that country. In 1889 the Department of the

Interior at Ottawa was informed that the Mormons were not

observing this pledge, but investigation convinced the

department that this accusation was not true. However, in

1890, an amendment to the criminal law of the Dominion was

enacted (clause 11, 53 Victoria, Chap. 37), making any person

guilty of a misdemeanor, and liable to imprisonment for five

years and a fine of $500, who practises any form of polygamy or

spiritual marriage, or celebrates or assists in any such

marriage ceremony.

The Secretario de Fomento of Mexico, under date of May 4,

1901, informed me that the number of Mormon colonists in that

country was then 2319, located in seven places in Chihuahua and

Sonora. He added: "The laws of this country do not permit

polygamy. The government has never encouraged the immigration of

Mormons, only that of foreigners of good character, working

people who may be useful to the republic. And in the contracts

made for the establishment of those Mormon colonies it was

stipulated that they should be formed only of foreigners

embodying all the aforesaid conditions."

No student of the question of polygamy, as a doctrine and

practice of the Mormon church, can reach any other conclusion

than that it is simply held in abeyance at the present time,

with an expectation of a removal of the check now placed upon

it. The impression, which undoubtedly prevails throughout other

parts of the United States, that polygamy was finally abolished

by the Woodruff manifesto and the terms of statehood, is founded

on an ignorance of the compulsory character of the doctrine of

polygamy, of the narrowness of President Woodruff's decree, and

of the part which polygamous marriages have been given, by the

church doctrinal teachings, in the plan of salvation. The sketch

of the various steps leading up to the Woodruff manifesto shows

that even that slight concession to public opinion was made, not

because of any change of view by the church itself concerning

polygamy, but simply to protect the church members from the loss

of every privilege of citizenship. That manifesto did not in any

way condemn the polygamous doctrine; it simply advised the

Saints to submit to the United States law against polygamy, with

the easily understood but unexpressed explanation that it was to

their temporal advantage to do so. How strictly this advice has

since been lived up to--to what extent polygamous practices have

since been continued in Utah--it is not necessary, in a work of

this kind, to try to ascertain. The most intelligent non-Mormon

testimony obtainable in the territory must be discarded if we

are to believe that polygamous relations have not been continued

in many instances. This, too, would be only what might naturally

be expected among a people who had so long been taught that

plural marriages were a religious duty, and that the check to

them was applied, not by their church authorities, but by an

outside government, hostility to which had long been inculcated

in them.

It must be remembered that it is a part of the doctrine of

polygamy that woman can enter heaven only as sealed to some

devout member of the Mormon church "for time and eternity," and

that the space around the earth is filled with spirits seeking

some "tabernacles of clay" by means of which they may attain

salvation. Through the teaching of this doctrine, which is

accepted as explicitly by the membership of the Mormon church at

large as is any doctrine by a Protestant denomination, the

Mormon women believe that the salvation of their sex depends on

"sealed" marriages, and that the more children they can bring

into the world the more spirits they assist on the road to

salvation. In the earlier days of the church, as Brigham Young

himself testified, the bringing in of new wives into a family

produced discord and heartburnings, and many pictures have been

drawn of the agony endured by a wife number one when her husband

became a polygamist. All the testimony I can obtain in regard to

the Mormonism of today shows that the Mormon women are now the

most earnest advocates of polygamous marriages. Said one

competent observer in Salt Lake City to me, "As the women of the

South, during the war, were the rankest rebels, so the women of

Mormondom are to-day the most zealous advocates of polygamy."

By precisely what steps the church may remove the existing

prohibition of polygamous marriages I shall not attempt to

decide. It is easy, however, to state the one enactment which

would prevent the success of any such effort. This would be the

adoption by Congress and ratification by the necessary number of

states of a constitutional amendment making the practice of

polygamy an offence under the federal law, and giving the

federal courts jurisdiction to punish any violators of this law.

The Mormon church recognizes this fact, and whenever such an

amendment comes before Congress all its energies will be directed

to prevent its ratification. Governor Wells's warning in his

message vetoing the Utah Act of March, 1901, concerning

prosecutions for adultery, that its enactment would be the

signal for a general demand for the passage of a constitutional

amendment against polygamy, showed how far the executive thought

it necessary to go to prevent even the possibility of such an

amendment. One of the main reasons why the Mormons are so

constantly increasing their numbers in the neighboring states is

that they may secure the vote of those states against an

anti-polygamy amendment. Whenever such an amendment is

introduced at Washington it will be found that every Mormon

influence--political, mercantile, and railroad--will be arrayed

against it, and its passage is unlikely unless the church shall

make some misstep which will again direct public attention to it

in a hostile manner.

The devout Mormon has no more doubt that his church will dominate

this nation eventually than he has in the divine character of

his prophet's revelations. Absurd as such a claim appears to all

non-Mormon citizens, in these days when Mormonism has succeeded

in turning public attention away from the sect, it is

interesting to trace the church view of this matter, along with

the impression which the Mormon power has made on some of its

close observers. The early leaders made no concealment of their

claim that Mormonism was to be a world religion. "What the world

calls 'Mormonism' will rule every nation," said Orson Hyde. "God

has decreed it, and his own right arm will accomplish it."*

Brigham Young, in a sermon in the Tabernacle on February 15,

1856, told his people that their expulsion from Missouri was

revealed to him in advance, as well as the course of their

migrations, and he added: "Mark my words. Write them down. This

people as a church and kingdom will go from the west to the


* Journal of Discourses, Vol. VII, pp. 48-53.

Tullidge, whose works, it must be remembered, were submitted to

church revision, in his "Life of Brigham Young" thus defines the

Mormon view of the political mission of the head of the church:

"He is simply an apostle of a republican nationality, manifold

in its genius; or, in popular words, he is the chief apostle of

state rights by divine appointment. He has the mission, he

affirms, and has been endowed with inspiration to preach the

gospel of a true democracy to the nation, as well as the gospel

for the remission of sins, and he believes the United States

will ultimately need his ministration in both respects . . . .

They form not, therefore, a rival power as against the Union, but

an apostolic ministry to it, and their political gospel is state

rights and self-government. This is political Mormonism in a


* p. 244.

Tullidge further says in his "History of Salt Lake City" (writing

in 1886): "The Mormons from the first have existed as a society,

not as a sect. They have combined the two elements of

organization--the social and the religious. They are now a new

society power in the world, and an entirety in themselves. They

are indeed the only religious community in Christendom of modern


* p. 387.

Some of the closest observers of the Mormons in their earlier

days took them very seriously. Thus Josiah Quincy, after

visiting Joseph Smith at Nauvoo, wrote that it was "by no means

impossible" that the answer to the question, "What historical

American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful

influence upon the destiny of his countrymen," would not be,

"Joseph Smith." Governor Ford of Illinois, who had to do

officially with the Mormons during most of their stay in that

state, afterward wrote concerning them: "The Christian world,

which has hitherto regarded Mormonism with silent contempt,

unhappily may yet have cause to fear its rapid increase. Modern

society is full of material for such a religion . . . . It is to

be feared that, in the course of a century, some gifted man like

Paul, some splendid orator who will be able by his eloquence to

attract crowds of the thousands who are ever ready to hear and be

carried away by the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal of

sparkling oratory, may command a hearing, may succeed in

breathing a new life into this modern Mohammedanism, and make

the name of the martyred Joseph ring as loud, and stir the souls

of men as much, as the mighty name of Christ itself."*

* Ford, "History of Illinois," p. 359.

The close observers of Mormonism in Utah, who recognize its aims,

but think that its days of greatest power are over, found this

opinion on the fact that the church makes practically no

converts among the neighboring Gentiles; and that the increasing

mining and other business interests are gradually attracting a

population of non-Mormons which the church can no longer offset

by converts brought in from the East and from foreign lands.

Special stress is laid on the future restriction on Mormon

immigration that will be found in the lack of further government

land which may be offered to immigrants, and in the discouraging

stories sent home by immigrants who have been induced to move to

Utah by the false representations of the missionaries.

Unquestionably, if the Mormon church remains stationary as

regards wealth and membership, it will be overshadowed by its

surroundings. What it depends on to maintain its present status

and to increase its power is the loyal devotion of the body of

its adherents, and its skill in increasing their number in the

states which now surround Utah, and eventually in other states.

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